203. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • The Current Scene in Italy

The Italian scene does not present a happy picture. While the basic situation has not seriously deteriorated, there has been no marked improvement in essential stability. The events in Chile have, at the least, served to increase general Western European (and Italian) interest in encouraging improvement.

In recent weeks, economic issues have dominated the forefront. The level of production in Italy during 1970 dropped more than any other European country; large enterprises suffered a 25% rise in the cost of labor in the same period. This situation has made more acute the [Page 691] issue of social reforms. The left and the labor unions are pressing even harder for these reforms, and the right is arguing that in light of economic conditions, and question whether it is correct to add billions of lire to public expenditures necessary to finance these reforms. In a speech on January 9, Prime Minister Colombo took a middle line: insufficient production should not be taken as a pretext for delay or annulment of reforms, but enactment of reforms without a corresponding increase in national resources would mean the reforms would bog down. Colombo has promised a Government “white paper” at the end of the month on the issue of public expenditures. In the meantime, the issue will continue to boil.

Politically, strains continue among and within the coalition parties. Presidential elections are scheduled for December, and several personalities are jockeying for position (Moro and Fanfani remain the leading contenders at this point). But the maneuvering and sub-rosa alliances in the making increase the climate of political uncertainty. There was some speculation that President Saragat might resign early to save Italy from a year of political maneuvering, but a Quirinale communiqué last week laid this rumor to rest.

The Italian Communist Party (PCI) this month celebrates its 50th birthday. Objectively, the PCI looks increasingly fat and part of the system, but the parties of the Center-Left seem by comparison even fatter, more tired and perhaps more corrupt. The PCI is taking the public line of moderation not eternal opposition, and certainly not revolution. By playing this moderate game, it hopes to continue its way toward, if not into, the Italian Government. No other party tries hard to compete with the PCI’s claim to be the basic party of the Italian worker, even though it in fact receives only a minority of the Italian workers’ vote, and of course has championed the cause of social reform.

The issue remains whether the democratic Italian parties can manage to submerge their current near total preoccupation with factional maneuvering and concentrate on taking the reform plank away from the PCI. If they do not, it is possible that the PCI may ease still further toward an established place in the governmental sphere. The next regularly scheduled parliamentary elections will be in the spring of 1973. The PCI is working to increase its vote (some 30% of the vote), particularly in the face of its slight turn-down last June.

Secretary Rogers has sent you a memorandum reviewing the current Italian political scene (Tab A).2 With respect to our policy, he judges that we should intensify efforts to ensure that the Italian governing class understands that we would be greatly disturbed by any [Page 692] movement toward accepting the PCI into the national government. At the same time, we should not lend any encouragement to the far right for any sort of military adventure.3

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 695, Country Files—Europe, Italy, Vol. II. Confidential. Sent for information. The memorandum bears the stamped notation: “The President has seen.”
  2. Not printed.
  3. The President underlined that portion of the paragraph beginning “ensure that the Italian governing” and ending with “military adventure,” and wrote: “We must hit this hard.”